arrow-up2 arrow-down2 arrow-right2 arrow-right3 search3 facebook twitter youtube checkmark cancel-circle cancel-circle2 cross2 play

Map: Wildlife Polluted by Flame Retardants on Massive Scale

Belugas to Butterflies Plagued by Harmful Chemicals

Important Notes:

  • Only a subset of animals in a few regions have been studied for specific flame retardants.
  • This map shows a selection of peer-reviewed studies; many more exist. 
  • Flame retardants are used to meet flammability standards which often do not provide meaningful fire-safety benefits and can be influenced by flame retardant manufacturers.
  • Wildlife & humans are exposed to flame retardants from air, water, & food; see observed health harms below.
  • This exposure can continue decades after a specific flame retardant is phased out due to its persistent, mobile, bioaccumulative, & toxic properties.
  • Flame retardants should be used only after their lack of health harm and value in preventing fires have been demonstrated.

A selection of health effects of flame retardants in wildlife

Flame Retardant Animal Health Impact
biphenyls (PCBs)
Killer Whales Estimated to threaten long-term viability of >50% global killer whale population
River Otters Associated with changes in thyroid & sex hormone levels
Polar Bears Associated with changes in thyroid hormone levels
Beluga Whales Altered vitamin A and E profiles
Ringed Seals Impacted health-related gene transcription
Killer Whales Altered gene transcription
PBDEs American Kestrels Lowered reproductive success, less copulation & pair bonding
Sea Lions Associated with urogenital cancer
Chinook Salmon Increased infectious disease susceptibility
Mice Decreased thyroid hormone concentrations
Polar Bears Associated with changes in thyroid hormone levels
Chlorinated paraffins Rats & Mice Increased liver, kidney, & thyroid tumors (SCCPs)
Rainbow Trout Diminished startle response, loss of equilibrium, liver lesions (SCCPs, MCPPs)
Zebrafish Altered thyroid hormone levels (SCCPs)
American Kestrels Reduced thyroid hormones (SCCPs)
Other halogenated FRs American Kestrels Likely obesogenic (DBE-DBCH)
American Kestrels Reduced vocalization, courtship, egg mass, & male parental behavior (HBCD)
American Kestrels Thyroid disruption, oxidative stress, altered heart & brain mass (EHTBB, TBPH)
Organophosphate FRs Rats & Mice Increased liver and kidney tumors (TCPP)
Japanese Quail Thyroidal effects, suppressed growth, reduced metabolic rate (TPhP)
Zebrafish Altered motility & anxiety-related behavior (IPP, BPDP, EHDP)
Mice Oxidative stress & endocrine disruption, e.g. decreased testosterone (TCEP, TPP)
Zebrafish Altered hormone levels, decreased egg production, & malformation (TDCPP)

The above health impacts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health harms experienced by wildlife due to the use of flame retardant chemicals in products before safety and efficacy are demonstrated. 

Flame retardants also cause health harm in humans, including:

  • Endocrine disruption
  • Neurodevelopmental effects
  • Decreased fertility
  • Some cancers

Learn more about flame retardants at and reducing exposure here.


Flame Retardant Chemical Abbreviations

If you'd like to suggest a new study that could be added to our selection of points, email it to [email protected].


Map designed and produced by Maddie Dolan.